View From Behind Bars
Have you ever been prisoner. Most of us have in some form or another. A person's views of life and perspectives on humanity get formed and developed in large part by that person's lived experience. In palace or in poverty, in peace-time or during battle whatever is, is that person's reality. I find it interesting that in all of the above those views and perspectives are shared by those in similar life situations. Some comfort and camaraderie shared with others can build a “band -of brothers” cultures or even nations.
Prisoners come in different forms, for sure, and each will carry the scars and wounds of that personal experience. Some are victims, some are victimizers, some have no idea how they came to be in this place, at this time, clothed in orange and behind bars. Their views and perspectives are seldom the topics of classrooms or the dining rooms.
Prisoners whose present condition of confinement evolve around accusations of crimes against persons or society have a unique position and place in the minds of most of us. That position, that place is called: Absent.
Absent is a lonely place to live and be. Absent is not being there, where ever there was and whoever or whatever you missed by not being a part of those present there. I think about when I had the mumps in elementary school as a child, and in my misery, I still imagined what my friends and playmates might be doing during the recess without me with them. I wondered if they missed me. I worried they might not even notice I wasn't among them, the laughter, the smiles and the jokes. I missed not being where they were. None of them were absent when the roll was called.
Sometimes I think of those times when the roll call comes around each day before breakfast here with all these people I do not know and really don't want meet but have to deal with whether I want to or not. Right now, I just want to be left alone to eat what I can stomach of whatever the daily faire provides and return to my cell. It appears I'm not alone in that attitude. There's the clamor of trays and plastic cups. You can hear the thud of a steel door closing down the corridor with polished waxed floors reflecting the greenish light of the fluorescent overheads encased in rectangular steel cages. Sure enough, it doesn't take much time to swallow down what I can. I get up and take my half-empty tray and slide it into the stainless steel rolling cart that comes and goes from pod to pod delivering the blandest highlight of every boring day where a prisoner wearing a different color jumpsuit. A white one with a blue stripe down the pants leg that identifies him as working in the prison kitchen. When the last of the trays slide into its' slot he turns and pushing forward, takes his cart to kitchen. The slight grin shows he knows he is better off than we are because he gets to work. His time goes faster and he sleeps better in a pod with only kitchen workers.
It's not a pleasant sight, nor is the air or lighting very agreeable. Turning, I see the line of smile-less faces all lined up, looking ahead, but really going nowhere, except back to their cells. A series of thunderous doors slams and then the quiet at least for the moment. My body falls onto a two inch mattress, rolling my back to the door and facing the light green concrete block a couple of inches from my unshaven chin. So, here I am. And here I'll stay until the buzzer and bullhorn calls me back into some line again.
There are sufficient numbers in just this country to fill any number of existing nations. Curiously, sending prisoners off to the other worlds has been done before, even successfully, for the sender, not the sendee. One man's paradise is another man's prison. Every Absent is most of the occupants just sit in cells, eat off of plastic trays and grow older. Some grow so old, one day or night they just stop… everything. Then bars don't hold them because they are not who or what they used to be. Then comes the ultimate Pardon.